Pensions

Ex- Witney wedding photographer scams NHS by pocketing mum’s pension for two years after her death (From Witney Gazette)

A MAN scammed the National Health Service out of tens of thousands of pounds after he continued to claim his mother’s NHS pension, despite her death two years earlier.

The scam described in court as an “abomination”, saw ex-wedding photographer Robin Sweet, of Fox Close, Witney, net £27,841.34 following the death of his mother Audrey.

It only came to light, Oxford Crown Court heard on Thursday, after an international fraud prevention initiative between the department for work and pensions, which had already stopped the normal pension, and the NHS, which was carried out in April 2013.

Sweet had already pleaded guilty at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on July 18 to the one count of dishonestly failing to disclose information to make financial gain.

The court heard last week how the 66-year old had accessed the pension as he was a joint account holder with his mother, who in turn had inherited the pension from her late husband, and Sweet’s father, who was a surgeon who died some years prior.

The pension, worth about £1,000 a month continued to be paid into the account for more than two years despite his mother Audrey passing away on January 22 2011.

At Sweet’s sentencing on Thursday the court heard that, because of mounting debts, he had known what he was doing but had ‘buried his head in the sand’.

Defending, Jonathan Coode, said: “His mother became ill and went to residential care and into a nursing home. The fees are enormous for that sort of care, about £24,000 per year.

“He is a wedding photographer but found business going downhill, and he got himself into more and more debt and simply allowed this incident to run.

“He is fundamentally a decent man who has tried his hardest with very little assistance from anybody else in the family.”

Sweet’s assets have since been frozen following the incident and he will be subject to a later proceeds of crime hearing in order to secure the missing money.

Mr Coode said of his client paying back the funds: “The NHS will get their money back.”

In sentencing, Judge Ian Pringle told the court: “For the first time in your life you fall to be sentenced at a criminal court.

“You knew full well you were not entitled to that money. You probably did so because of the debt you had got yourself in.

“You had accumulated quite considerable debts and you needed that money.”

He was given a 10-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and also ordered to complete 240 hours of unpaid work which is to be completed within one year.

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